Students who have given up

If you teach long enough, you will eventually get a student who has given up on school.  We'll call this student, Child X.  Child X doesn't follow the rules and couldn't care less what the consequence are when he/she breaks a rule. Nothing you've tried, including an office referral, has fazed this student.  What can you do with a child that has given up?

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to substitute for a vice-principal.  It was quite an eye-opening experience.  You know how we as teachers feel like non-teachers don't really understand the difficulties of our job.  I can tell you that after having a very small glimpse of the life of a vice-principal, we as teachers don't know all of the challenges our administrators face on a daily basis.  Sitting behind the big desk is very stressful.  The experience did teach me some valuable lessons that I was able to take back to the classroom.  One of the best lessons I learned was dealing with students who have given up.  I think I was able to reach these students in a new way because I was an outsider.  The students could tell me what they really think, rather than censoring their thoughts.  The story I heard over and over was "my teacher doesn't like me" or "nothing I do is ever good enough".  My first question I asked them after they told me this was, "what have you done that would make a teacher not like you." They need to take ownership for their behavior. After some hesitation on the students part, they eventually began listing all of the rules that they broke.  I explained to them that their teacher likes them, but do not like the way they behave.  I then showed them my copy of The Berenstain Bears Forget Their Manners and asked if they remembered this book.  Keep in mind the students I was working with were 4th and 5th grade boys.  They looked at me like I had grown two heads.  Eventually they admitted they remembered their first grade teacher reading this book.  We discussed what happened in the story.  Brother and Sister Bear decide they are going to go overboard with their manners. They will be EXTRA polite.   I challenged them to an experiment.  I told them to be EXTRA polite for a week to see if this would make a difference in how others treated them.  We brainstormed ways to be extra polite.  They agreed to do things like use "ma-am" or "sir" with their teachers, look their teacher in the eye when speaking to him/her, offer to help classmates/teachers, and above all else follow the rules.  I told them that each day I would pop into their classroom to check on them.  At the end of the week, I spoke to the boys again and they agreed that they had a lot in common with Brother and Sister Bear.  Being extra polite was a good thing.  I'm convinced that some of these students who have given up act like this because they feel like they are a victim.  When they feel like no one likes them or they are never good enough, they are powerless.  When you encourage them to take ownership for their behavior, you empower them.


Fluttering Through First Grade said...

Oh Michelle, this is SO good!
We completely agree and found that most kiddos at this young age want to please their teacher and just want a lil cheerleader to root them on and encourage them.

We all need a little reminder from time to time about how us big people treat the little peeps-this is perfect.

LOVE this book (we use it when introducing our classroom rules). Genius using it on the big kiddos too! You're never too old for Berenstain Bears!
~Christy & Tammy

Fran Kramer said...

I think this was a great post and one that reminds us of how fragile children really are. There is so much pressure being put on our students and so much attention is being given to test scores that we forget what really matters.
Having nice manners builds community in a classroom and helps children get their needs met.
Teachers need to hit this hard throughout the year. Thanks for the reminder!

Unknown said...

think they sell this book in bulk...I want to get about 10 copies for my children!!

Sally said...

That's such a great book! I read it to my second graders every year! I agree, so many kids don't realize that their own behavior determines how others (including adults) treat them!

Sally from Elementary Matters

Fern Smith's Classroom Ideas said...

I really enjoyed your post today. So many times we see these tough kids who are so cool and have given up, but really they are still babies who want to be loved, the tough guy is all an act!

Lisa R. said...

Thanks for the great tips!! It is easy to get overwhelmed & frustrated with those students who don't seem to care and throw our hands in the air. It is so important to not give up on anyone. Love this post!
Learning Is Something to Treasure

Heather's Heart said...

This is a great post and reminder. I try to always tell my kiddos how much I love and care about them but I may not like their hurtful behaviors. We have the job of an Encourager in Our School Family and that job has helped tremendously...and so has the job of the Cheerleader. =)

Thank you so much for this post.

Heather's Heart

Unknown said...

I am a B.Bears lover! I let me students read my collection I had since was a child. They even love to add to it during Teacher Appreciation Week! The whole series teaches wonderful lessons.

I did want to ask you, how did you come across an opportunity to sub for a VP?!! that sounds fun! eye opening for sure!

Always A Lesson

Michelle said...

I'm glad everyone enjoyed this post.

Gretchen, I subbed for a v.p. because our v.p. got a new job the last few months of school. The district wasn't going to send my principal anyone to replace him. So, my principal got permission to allow two teachers on our campus who had their administration certification to take turns subbing. Every other day I was a kindergarten teacher and every other day I was subbing for the v.p. I learned so much and gained an insight to all the hidden duties/stresses of the life of a principal. There is a lot more to that job that teachers and parents realize!

Heather said...

Thank you so much for sharing your great ideas! I always look forward to checking out what new ideas have been shared. I’ve nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award! Stop on by my blog to pick up your award: